HighlyStructured.com is a blog website run by Mike D'Agostino about search engine positioning, online marketing, php/MySQL, tae kwon do, and various other topics.

General Guidelines for Optimizing a Web Page for Google and the Search Engines

December 05, 2005

Over the past few years I've been able (and forced) to spend time researching and experimenting on how to get websites to rank higher on Google and the search engiges. Sometimes referred to as search engine positioning (SEP) or seach engine optimization (SEO), I relate it to "black magic". I don't think anyone really knows how it works, and even Google admits it's a rather automated process. It's not as if anyone is sitting at Google selecting which site is number one or number 5,000 for a particular search term. The search engines use their own algorithms to automatically rank websites in their index.

What further complicates the matter is that each different search engine seems to have different rules to rank websites in their index. A high ranking on Google does not necessarily mean a high ranking on MSN or Yahoo!.

Now, does Google have a secret room somewhere in a highly protected area of their company headquarters which houses a web page that is the archetype for a number one ranking? I doubt it...although there are some "rules" that one can use to develop this "prototypical" page.

I base my search engine optimization on common sense techniques. These are techniques which are NOT meant to trick the search engines. My belief is that search engines know people are trying to trick them, and it is their job, their duty, to weed out these imposters and deliver only the best relevant results when someone performs a search.

Evidence is abound. In the past it used to be simple to get a higher ranking. Put your keyword on the page as much as you can, over and over and over. The more times your keyword was on a page, the higher your ranking. The search engines caught on and now there is something called "keyword density" which finds a percentage of how many times your keyword appears on a page in relation to all the other words on a page.

Then it became popular to do the same thing, repeat your keywords over and over, in the keyword META tag. Again the search engines caught on and now it is believed the keyword META might not even be considered to some search engines.

Most "keyword" tricks have been debunked, including "hiding" your keywords by using the same font color as the background of the page, using tons of images to get your keywords into the ALT tags, etc. etc.

Much of the "tricking" going on today has to do with link exchanges and trying to make your site more popular because of Google's Page Rank technology, which looks at your site's traffic and incoming links to determine your sites Page Rank/popularity. But again, Google is not sitting idling by while someone creates a link farm which instantly creates 1000's of incoming links for a site.

Common Sense Rules for Optimizing a Web Page

Here we go, from top to bottom:
- Get your keywords into the Title tag - 6 to 12 word long
- Get your keywords into the keyword META tag
- Get your keywords inot the description META tag
- Use your keywords at the beginning and end of your document
- Use your keywords at the top of the page using the HEADER tag - H1 is the best
- Use your keywords in image ALT tags
- Use your keywords as actual links
- Use your keywords in link titles
- Make sure your keywords have more "density" than all other words on the page
- Get other relevant sites to link to your site
- Don't do anything you would consider a trick to rank higher on the search engines

I've found that the title tag, H1 tag, and keyword density are the most important. It's also important to only target a finite number of keywords on any one given page. I think probably focusing in on 4-8 keywords works best. Use the same keywords in the title tag, H1 tag, and links. If the title of your page is "Golf Score Tracker - Keep Track of Your Golf Scores for Free", you should have a H1 tag at the top of the content area that reads "Golf Score Tracker", and you should have a link on the page that reads "Golf Score Tracker". For a moderate page length, try to get your keywords in 5-10 times on the page to keep your keyword density higher than other words on the page.

If you follow these very basic techniques it will get you going in a very positive direction towards getting a higher rank on Google and the search engines. As you get more sites to link to your website you'll see your Google Page Rank increase along with the traffic to your site.

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